Let’s get a few things straight about L.J. Hoes.
He prefers L.J. to LJ, so this blog entry actually is a period piece. He shops at a Walmart in Fort Lauderdale, which is where he heard the news yesterday that the Orioles traded for him. And he’s not afraid to show his emotions in public.
“I’m very excited,” Hoes said after being obtained from the Astros for cash considerations. “I was actually grocery shopping when I found out and I almost dropped everything I had in my cart. I started jumping up and down. It was pretty cool.”
The phone call came from agent Jeff Randazzo of Ballengee Group, who a few days earlier had tipped off Hoes that the Orioles were interested.
“He was like, ‘Yeah, there’s some action with Baltimore going on,’ ” Hoes said. “He called me today and I was grocery shopping and I started jumping up and down and I saw my girlfriend coming around the corner and she started smiling. She gave me a big smile and I gave her a big hug and I said, ‘We’re going home.’
“She started jumping, she started crying a little bit because she was so excited, so it was a good experience.”
Hoes, a third-round pick in 2008 out of St. John’s High School in D.C., was designated for assignment on Friday and immediately wondered if the Orioles still wanted him. He already knew how his former teammates felt, including close friend Adam Jones.
“I heard there had been some talk in the last year about me possibly going back,” he said. “I had been talking to Adam about the possible situation and I called him on Friday after I got designated. He was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to get right on it. I’d love to have you back.’ He was like, ‘I’d be excited if you came back.’ We talked about it this weekend a little bit, and this morning he was actually one of the first people I called. He was very excited, so that’s pretty cool.”
Hoes was gone from the organization, traded to the Astros on July 31, 2013 in the Bud Norris deal, but he maintained a connection.
“I talked to Manny (Machado) and I talked to Jonathan Schoop. I talked to them a lot. And I talk to Adam pretty much every day,” he said.
“It’s nice to be able to come back and already have those relationships. (Kevin) Gausman being there. It’s nice to see so many familiar faces in the locker room. Sometimes you get traded, like when I got traded to Houston, you don’t know anybody there. This one kind of makes it easier. It’s like going home. There are a lot of guys there that I came up with, like Oliver Drake, and those guys are now in the big leagues with the Orioles. It’s kind of cool to be there and hopefully help the Orioles win a championship.”
The image of Hoes sitting at his locker at Camden Yards on the day he was traded hasn’t faded in the least. Not from the player or the reporters around him. It bordered on the bizarre, the news delivered in a scroll at the bottom of a television screen.
“In the morning I was with Adam and he was like, ‘Hey, you’re probably going to be traded today,’ ” Hoes recalled. “He was saying it not really jokingly, but kind of serious. We went on the field and I came back and sat down looked at the MLB Network and it said I had been traded. Probably about five minutes later Buck (Showalter) came and got me and said this was what’s happening and it’s going to be a great opportunity for me going over to Houston.
“It was definitely weird, but I had an idea about what was going on with the situation at the time, being one of the prospects in the organization at the time. And the Orioles, the way they were going, they were making that push to win the AL East and go for a championship. And I knew I was one of those pieces that could be moved. It didn’t work out for me with the Orioles at that time, but God has a way of working things. I’m back and I’m excited.”
The Astros went from almost worst to almost first this season, winning the wild card game in the American League and pushing the Royals to the brink of elimination in the Division Series. Hoes appeared in only eight games - two in April and none beyond July 23 - after playing in 55 the previous year.
“For me, I was in the same situation with the Orioles in 2012,” Hoes said. “I was in Triple-A and waiting for an opportunity to get called up, and you can’t really do anything. They’re making a playoff push and back then the Orioles had (Nick) Markakis and Jones and Nate McLouth, so there was no spot for me. And this year with the Astros they had (Jake) Marisnick, they had Carlos Gomez, (George) Springer. You had guys like Preston Tucker come up out of nowhere and really put themselves on the map.
“I couldn’t really sit there and complain. I had to go about my business. Our Triple-A team ended up winning a (Pacific Coast League) championship, so we had something good there and I was one of the leaders on that team. I stayed focused and stayed ready for my opportunity. I got a couple opportunities to play up there and help the team for a little bit.
“It took a lot mentally and it made me stronger and taught me a lot more about myself And it made me a lot hungrier.”
Hoes is taking his appetite to Baltimore today for a Thanksgiving feast with his family.
“It’s actually good news,” he said. “I can go home and celebrate.”
No need to make a wish with the bone. It’s already been granted.
Note: Jon Heyman’s notebook on CBSSports.com yesterday morning included a few items on the Orioles.
Heyman mentioned how the Orioles retain interest in outfielder Alex Gordon and have reached out to the agent for right-hander Yovani Gallardo. They both make sense. The Orioles are looking for corner outfielders and probably have contacted representatives for just about every second-tier starter on the market.
Heyman also said he’d be surprised if the Orioles re-signed Gerardo Parra due to the outfielder’s decline in production after being acquired from the Brewers.
It probably depends on who you talk to in the organization. Showalter sounded as though he wanted Parra back, but it’s not unanimous.